Environment Agency update on COVID-19
Published: 22 May 2020

The Environment Agency have issued a statement clarifying their operational situation, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and have stressed that they are working hard with the Government and other emergency services to protect the public and the environment from the effects of Coronavirus.

This In Focus covers:

Staffing
Regulatory role
Flood defence work
Fisheries
Waterways
Regulatory Position Statements
Contact details

Staffing

The Environment Agency remains fully operational, with the majority of staff working from home.

However, front line teams are active, and where necessary, on the ground tackling priority issues such as flood risk and pollution. They're making sure they follow NHS guidance to reduce their risk of contracting Coronavirus.

High-risk assets and activities have been prioritised, and field teams are maximising social distancing and working as flexibly as possible to reduce the number of face to face interactions between team members. Protective measures have been taken to safeguard kit and vehicles used for operational duties.

Regulatory role

The aim is to ensure that regulatory visits to sites that could cause serious environmental harm are still carried out.

However, regulatory visits to other sites are being reduced. This is being kept under constant review on how best to regulate them in accordance with Government guidance.

Flood defence work

The Environment Agency is reviewing flood defence schemes currently under construction to make sure staff and contractors are able to work safely while trying to meet deadlines to reduce flood risk for vulnerable communities.

The majority of such work has been identified as essential by the Government, so is able to continue with all staff trained on social distancing. If the work cannot be done safely the work will stop.

Inspections of flood risk assets damaged in Storms Ciara and Dennis are still underway using local inspectors. Work is prioritised to protect the most at-risk communities to ensure they continue to remain resilient.

If repairs to major infrastructure assets are disrupted by the impact of Coronavirus, the Agency will where possible put in place temporary mitigation for the risk, pending a full repair.

Fisheries

Following Government guidance on coronavirus, anglers are advised not to go fishing. Recreational fisheries businesses are also advised that they are subject to closure advice as set out by the Government.

The Environment Agency will continue to enforce the current Fisheries Regulations such as fishing without a licence or fishing in the close season on waters where the close season applies.

Enforcement will be subject to relevant social distancing measures.

Waterways

All owners of boats kept or used on Environment Agency managed waterways have been asked not to make any boat journeys, other than to access essential services and facilities.

It is advised that people stay at home rather than self-isolating aboard, unless your boat is your primary residence.

The Agency will not provide staff to operate locks at any lock sites, but such sites will remain open for self-service use where possible to enable those living aboard their boats to reach essential services. Where self-service is not possible, a reduced level of service will be in operation and local teams will assist boats through in exceptional circumstances.

Regulatory Position Statements

The Environment Agency has published a series of temporary COVID-19 Regulatory Position Statements which deal with specific circumstances where they are relaxing normal regulatory requirements to avoid increasing risks to the environment or human health during the particular circumstances of COVID-19.

If you comply with their requirements, and all of your other environmental regulatory requirements, they will not normally take enforcement action against you.

The Statements published so far include:

Contact details

Any pollution incidents can still be reported on: 0800 807 060.

The Environment Agency's email address for enquiries remains operational, however due to the impact of COVID-19 there may be a delay in responses, as most staff will be working from home: enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk.